I was in the beautiful French colonial city of Pondicherry recently, and with the relaxing nice hotels and beautiful views of the Bay of Bengal, it looked like the perfect place to have a cold cocktail at sunset.
Is alcohol allowed in Pondicherry? Alcohol is sold in bars and liquor stores. You can NOT take more than 1 bottle of alcohol with you as you leave the territory. The bottle must have been previously opened and you must have drank some of it already. You should not travel if you are drunk or carrying the open bottle.
The neighboring state of Tamil Nadu has stricter alcohol laws than Pondicherry, which is why you would want to be careful.
However, with the relaxed and friendly vibe of the city, Pondicherry is a great place to have cocktails with friends at your hotel or to go out dancing late into the night. If you want to have some drinks, it could help to understand the laws and costs, so you’re epic holiday doesn’t turn into a legal disaster…
Planning a trip to India at some point? Check out my free ebook to help you save time and money, and avoid headaches. After +4 years in India, I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and this guide shares what I’ve learned so you can have a smoother trip.
Alcohol Laws in Pondicherry
Pondicherry has some of the lowest prices for alcohol in India because there are fewer taxes than in many places.
In some Indian states, the taxes on imported liquor are as much as 500%. For instance, alcohol in Kashmir is more expensive given the low demand and it’s geographical isolation (it’s way up north in the mountains). Pondicherry is a small union territory which relies heavily on tourism so they have reduced taxes on alcohol.
Taxes and laws around alcohol in Pondicherry are different than the taxes in Tamil Nadu, which is why it is NOT advisable to transport alcohol across the state lines. You are allowed to carry one bottle of open alcohol, but in my opinion, I wouldn’t risk it. It just seems weird to take an open bottle of alcohol with you and travel with it.
You are also opening yourself up to the subjective decision of a police officer. They could also question if you have been drinking while driving. Therefore, it’s NOT worth the trouble to transport alcohol back to your home in Bangalore, Chennai or wherever you live.
The laws are in place to keep people and businesses from buying cases of alcohol in Pondicherry with lower taxes, then transporting them to another state with higher taxes… the government wants all the money they can get of course 🙂
If you are found transporting alcohol across the state lines you will have to pay additional taxes.
Other Alcohol Laws in Pondicherry:
- You can NOT drink in public, so you can NOT bring beer or wine to the beach. Some people say you can do it discreetly.
- Liquor can NOT be sold in bulk quantities.
- Liquor shops will only sell you 4.5 liters of imported liquor or 9 litres of beer at a time.
- You must be 18 years old to drink alcohol or be allowed in most bars and nightclubs.
Dry Days in Pondicherry:
Like everywhere in India, there are some days you won’t be able to buy alcohol. Mostly national holidays, during important festivals or political events, such as near elections. For example, in April 2019, there were 3 consecutive dry days for the Lok Sabha election.
The standard dry days across India are:
- Republic Day: January 26
- Independence Day: August 15
- Gandhi Jayanti: October 2
The dry days change every year, so be sure to Google this before you travel to Pondicherry if you want to enjoy a nice cocktail near the beach.
Read more: Is Alcohol Allowed in Leh in Ladakh?
Average Costs of Alcohol in Pondicherry
If you want to save money on alcohol, go to the government-run liquor stores such as PAPSCO.
For higher-quality service and selection, yet higher prices… the private liquor stores are better.
Even though the taxes are lower in Pondicherry than other places, you could pay more for drinks because of the increased costs due to tourism.
There are 237 liquor shops in Pondicherry though, so you should find plenty of a selection.
According to the website Numbeo, the average cost of alcohol in Pondicherry is higher than some other tourist destinations:
- Average price of domestic beer: 130 RS (Varies between 100 RS – 150 RS)
- Average price of imported beer: 265 RS (Varies between 100 RS – 400 RS)
- Average price of mid-range bottle of wine: 300 RS (Varies between 150 – 550 RS)
The average price of a good quality bottle of wine is 737 RS.
To compare, in Goa the average prices of alcohol are:
- Domestic beer: 80 RS (Varies between 50 – 150 RS)
- Imported beer: 255 RS (Varies between 250 – 400 RS)
- Mid-range bottle of wine: 600 RS (Varies between 300 – 700 RS)
To compare, in Varanasi the average prices of alcohol are:
- Domestic beer: 120 RS (Varies between 75 – 135 RS)
- Imported beer: 300 RS (Varies between 120 – 400 RS)
- Mid-range bottle of wine: 275 RS (Varies between 200 – 1000 RS)
To compare, in Mumbai the average prices of alcohol are:
- Domestic beer: 180 RS (Varies between 130 – 250 RS)
- Imported beer: 300 RS (Varies between 210 – 450 RS)
- Mid-range bottle of wine: 600 RS (Varies between 350 – 900 RS)
To compare, in Delhi the average prices of alcohol are:
- Domestic beer: 130 RS (Varies between 90 – 200 RS)
- Imported beer: 200 RS (Varies between 150 – 350 RS)
- Mid-range bottle of wine: 750 RS (Varies between 500 – 1500 RS)
To compare, in Bangalore the average prices of alcohol are:
- Domestic beer: 150 RS (Varies between 100 – 250 RS)
- Imported beer: 300 RS (Varies between 200 – 400 RS)
- Mid-range bottle of wine: 600 RS (Varies between 4000 – 1000 RS)
To compare, in Chennai the average prices of alcohol are:
- Domestic beer: 150 RS (Varies between 100 – 200 RS)
- Imported beer: 250 RS (Varies between 200 – 350 RS)
- Mid-range bottle of wine: 575 RS (Varies between 300 – 1000 RS)
Buying Beer in Liquor Stores in Pondicherry
If you were to buy a big bottle of beer in a liquor store in Pondicherry, here are the prices I found:
- Kingfisher: 85 RS
- Budweiser: 100 RS
- Budweiser Magnum: 120 RS
- Heineken: 130 RS
- Corona: 210 RS
- Fosters: 80 RS
- Becks Ice: 90 RS
- Haywards 5000: 80 RS
- Tuborg Strong: 85 RS
- Storm: 95 RS
- Amstel: 90 RS
Nice Restaurants in Pondicherry
The restaurants and bars near the Promenade is your best bet to find a place to enjoy a nice dinner with alcohol. Many places have rooftop seating so you can gaze off at the ocean horizon as you enjoy your meal.
If you’re wanting to enjoy a delicious dinner with alcohol, here are the places that get the best reviews:
Le Club, White Town
Near Promenade Beach, you can find fresh seafood with outdoor tables to with ocean views. The restaurant will remind you of a historic French villa with flowering trees shading your dinner.
- Average Price for Two: 1400 RS with alcohol
- This dish looks good: The seafood is highly recommended, Chef’s Special Fish – 480 RS. The chocolat crepes for something sweet – 210 RS.
- Good for: Young people who want to eat dinner as the sunsets OR to grab a late dinner after dancing.
Toxic, Heritage Town
Here you can find rooftop views with prices that are lower than many places in Pondicherry. Located on top of the Hotel Athithi, it is open from 7pm to 11pm.
- Average Price for Two: 1000 RS with alcohol
- Regular Beer: 165 RS
- Regular whisky: 140 RS
- This cocktail looks killer: Toxic – the Ultimate Drink (3 white liquors with lime juice and cola) – 400 RS
- This dish looks good: The Seafood Platter with fresh grilled seafood from the Bay of Bengal – 800 RS.
- Good for: A budget-friendly meal and good drinks.
L’Aqua, White Town
If you want a trendy place to find other tourists, this is one of the most happening bars in the city. You can find it next to the Promenade, with a wide range of cocktails and beers that will combine with the sea breeze and lapping sound of the waves to lull you into a state of the ultimate relaxation.
- Average Price for Two: 1200 RS with alcohol
- Regular Beer: 170 RS
- Wine: 300 RS
- Jack Daniels whisky: 369 RS
- This dish looks good: The Mexican enchiladas – 255 RS. Tex Mex Nachos Grande – 200. (I’m from Texas though 🙂
- Good for: Tourists to meet other people in a beautiful seaside setting and cold drinks.
DeBussy Bar & Restaurant, White Town
If you prefer a dive bar, this is the spot for you. You won’t find fancy modern decor but you will find some of the lowest prices on alcohol. You can also find local Indian seafood… and they have fairy lights, if that’s your thing. 😉
- Average Price for Two: 500 RS with alcohol
- This dish looks good: The seafood florentine.
- Good for: Those on a budget who want traditional Indian food.
Read more: Why Is Alcohol Taboo in India?
Nightlife in Pondicherry
If you want to go out dancing, remember a few things:
- Dress code for women: Casual or semi-formal outfits would be required. No flip-flops.
- Dress code for men: No flip-flops, running or sport shores, sweat pants, pajamas or shorts.
- Some places only allow couples and girls. Single men or groups of male friends should call ahead to be sure.
- Separate Dance Floors: If you want a dance floor for girls or guys only, you can find that at a number of places.
- Closing time is: 11 PM
- Loud music is also NOT allowed after 11 PM, so no parties back in your hotel room.
Pub Zipper, Pudupalaiyam
This is the most popular dance club in Pondy with 100s of party-people coming every day. There are various zones to suit your tastes: the Lounge Bar, the Smoking Zone and the Quiet Zone. Go dancing in the Lounge, have a Smoke with your friends, then rest up and talk in the Quiet Zone.
- Average Price for Two: 1200 RS with alcohol
- Good for: Travelers who want to meet young people and party the night away.
LB2 Lounge, White Town
Fun place to hangout that is highly rated (4.5 out of 5 stars on Tripadvisor with 225 reviews). It’s mostly a drinking place, but if you want a nice dinner you can order good food as well.
- Entry: 500 – 1200 RS
- Couples and girls only
- Separate dance floors
- Good for: Travelers who want to dance the night away after a nice dinner.
The Dragon Lounge, Heritage Town
If you want a place that’s off-the-beaten-path, this is more of a bar to hang out in. It has outdoor seating on the beach with big TVs at the rooftop bar. There are lots of cocktails to choose from, and mocktails as well.
- Average Price for Two: 1200 RS with alcohol
- Beer: 100 RS
- Long Island Iced Tea cocktail: 250 RS
- Johnnie Walker Black: 175/350 RS
- Good for: A group of friends who want a chill comfortable place to talk without fighting a huge crowd.
Is Alcohol Allowed in Auroville?
Alcohol is banned at guesthouses in Auroville and near Auroville. It is NOT available for purchase in the township and is “discouraged” by the official Auroville website.
Is Hookah Banned in Pondicherry?
You can smoke hookah in hookah bars, but smoking in public is banned. You could face a fine of 200 – 500 RS. Unofficially it is rarely enforced. As a tourist and guest of the country, it may be seen as rude.